The media has recently warned of an unusually bad allergy season causing miserable symptoms to countless people.
Seasonal allergies are commonly referred to as allergic rhinitis — also known as “hay fever” — if the nose is mostly affected, and allergic conjunctivitis if the eyes are involved.
Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include sneezing, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, headache, and fatigue. These symptoms can have a tremendous negative impact on the quality of life and on productivity.
American workers lose an estimated six million work days yearly to this disorder, as well as incurring costs of several billion dollars in medical care.
Seasonal allergies usually occur from spring to early fall, and are due to pollens from trees, grass and weeds. Perennial allergies, occurring throughout most of the year, are caused by indoor factors such as dust mites, animal dander, and mold.
Nasal stuffiness from allergic rhinitis can cause swelling and obstruction of the sinuses which can lead to a sinus infection.
There is a strong association between allergic rhinitis and asthma. Up to 50 percent of patients with asthma have allergic rhinitis. Sleep disorders in adults and a high proportion of ear infections in children are also associated with allergic rhinitis.
Treatment for people who think they have allergic rhinitis can begin with an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl or Chlortrimeton.
However, they are often associated with the bothersome side effect of drowsiness. They should be avoided in children below 2 years of age and in the elderly.
Newer oral antihistamines such as Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec, are now available without a prescription and cause significantly fewer side effects and are more conveniently dosed at once or twice a day. Steroid nasal sprays such as Nasacort and Flonase are very effective and are now sold over the counter.
Seasonal allergies can also affect the eyes causing redness, tearing, itching, and swelling of the lids.
This can be treated with cold compresses and with one of the newer oral antihistamines mentioned above. It would also be worth trying over-the-counter allergy eye drops such as Zaditor, Alaway or Naphcon A.
The above mentioned over-the-counter medications for allergy symptoms can be purchased for under $30 at your local pharmacy. If these treatments aren’t working sufficiently, see your doctor who can help you decide what treatment is best for your symptoms.